United States Aims to Drastically Cut Visa Wait Times for Indian Travelers, Says Consular Affairs Official

The United States is actively pursuing a significant reduction in the wait time for visitor visas for Indian nationals, a goal set following a remarkable 75% decrease last year, as highlighted by Rena Bitter, Assistant Secretary of the US Bureau of Consular Affairs. In an interview with PTI, Bitter emphasized the historic surge in Indian travel to the U.S., with the Embassy processing 1.4 million visas in the previous year, experiencing no wait times in most categories.

Bitter stated, “It has been reduced 75 per cent over the last year, and we are working hard on this. We recognize that it is a significant bilateral relationship, and the foundation of the relationship is the people-to-people ties, the business travel, and the family ties.”

Addressing concerns about first-time tourists encountering wait times, Bitter assured ongoing efforts to address the issue, acknowledging its significance in strengthening the bilateral relationship. She stressed the importance of supporting the post in India to meet the growing travel demand.

Responding to inquiries about H1B visas, Bitter mentioned the ongoing pilot program allowing Indians in the U.S. to renew their H1B visas without traveling abroad. The pilot program, set to conclude in February, reflects the U.S. government’s commitment to recognizing the contributions of Indian skilled workers to the economy.

Bitter shared insights into the conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden, underscoring the seriousness of the H1B visa issue. The assistant secretary revealed that the pilot program, initiated in January for revalidating 20,000 Indian skilled workers, is progressing well. Upon completion of the pilot phase, the authorities will reassess to streamline processes and make it more convenient for Indians working in the U.S.

The H-1B visa is pivotal for U.S. companies to employ foreign workers with specialized skills, especially in the technology sector. Bitter acknowledged the vital role played by Indian skilled workers and assured continued efforts to facilitate their stay and work in the U.S.

Regarding student visas, Bitter highlighted the significant contribution of Indian students, constituting one in four international students studying in the U.S. The official expressed pride in the top-notch education Indian students receive, enriching U.S. classrooms with diverse perspectives. Bitter expressed excitement about ensuring continued access to U.S. education for Indian students, with a record-breaking increase of 35% in Indian students traveling to the U.S. for higher education in the academic year 2022-23. Last year, the U.S. consular team in India issued over 140,000 student visas, setting a record for the third consecutive year and underscoring the program’s importance.

Source: MSN